Why You Should Never Diagnose Yourself Using Google
You can’t trust the internet over your doctor.
Self-medication, as the name suggests is using a drug without consulting a physician. Most people don’t realise how dangerous self medication can get. Most drugs have side-effects and can react adversely if taken in combination with other medications.
The other day in a party, I was amused to hear people tell their stories about who is taking what all medication and to my surprise, I learnt, most of the people were taking some or the other drug. What was shocking, though was that more than half of these people were taking medicines on their own without any medical prescription!
52% Indians self medicate because no one has the time to go to a doctor. These are results of a pan-India study conducted by a healthcare firm Lybrate, on 20,000 respondents from 10 different cities.
We’ve all been there; a sudden ache, a tingling sensation or an ailment of unexplained origin. Instead of going to the doctor, we’d rather go on the internet and find out about the cause, medication and dosage right there.
Think Twice Before Popping That Headache Pill
If you suffer from chronic headaches and instead of getting it checked by a doctor you keep taking paracetamol, you may not be aware that paracetamol taken over long periods of time may cause liver toxicity. The perils of self-medication are many:
Misdiagnosing or Masking a Potentially Serious Disease
In certain circumstances the internet can be a very empowering tool, there are some very good medical websites which offer great advice and information about diseases. But the problem is that sometimes serious diseases like cancer also start off as chronic pain. Its when the symptoms of a complex, life threatening disease are masked as common, can self diagnosis go horribly wrong.
We are yet to come across a medicine which is without side effects. Inappropriate medicines taken for an inappropriate length of time are bound to cause side effects. Probably, the commonest drugs to be mis(over)used are antiacids (as opposed to antacids). These would knock down your first line of defence and first step of digestion which is what the acid secreted in the stomach does.
The biggest danger is dependence on anti-anxiety and anti depressants but you could also become addicted to prescription drugs such as antacids, cough syrups and pain relievers.
Any drug can cause severe reaction in the body. In some cases these could be fatal.
Insufficient dosage of medicines will not cure and will prolong recovery. On the other hand, over-dosage may damage multiple organs. For example, excessive use of vitamins can cause hypervitaminosis, or vitamin poisoning.
Indiscriminate use of antibiotics could, over a long period, lead to antimicrobial resistance. Consequently, the antibiotic may become ineffective when taken in the future and would give rise to emergence of superbugs.
Risk of Bleeding and Stroke:
Painkillers are the most commonly (mis)used drugs. Analgesics can induce inflammation in the stomach causing ulcers and bleeding. Equally dangerously they can also increase risk of stroke by up to four times in patients with high blood pressure.
Self-medication by Pregnant Women:
As a rule of thumb all drugs are avoided in pregnancy. Even apparently safe looking drugs if taken, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy could adversely affect the unborn child causing congenital anomalies and birth defects.
The message is loud and clear: Don’t trust the internet over the doctor. If the symptoms don’t improve in a day or two, consult your doctor immediately.
(Dr Ashwini Setya is a Gastroenterologist and Programme Director in Delhi’s Max Super Speciality Hospital. His endeavor is to help people lead a healthy life without medication. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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